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June 2002

Cuban Masters
Los Originales
Pimienta Records

Flutist/bandleader Jose Fajardo, bassist Israel "Cachao" L¢pez, trumpeter Alfredo "Chocolate" Armenteros, congueros Carlos "Patato" Valdes and Francisco Aguabella and others comprise the Cuban Masters. Fajardo passed away Dec. 11, 2001, at the age of 82, but Los Originales is a fine memorial, showcasing a cast of star players who in their day graced the bands of Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez, Machito, Herbie Mann, Peggy Lee and Cal Tjader.

Salsa singer Hector Casanova introduces everyone on the title-track opener with pianist Alfredo Rodriguez taking a solo full of percussive dynamics. Double-bassist Cachao, co-creator of the danzon mambo (1937) and the first authentic Cuban descarga (jam session) recording (1957), is highlighted on "Cachao es Mambo." The finesse of his bow is rich, but when he digs in with his fingers into his renown tumbao (swing) it's pure magic.

"Toca la Flauta Fajardo" honors the melodic and syncopated style of Fajardo. A purveyor of sxet as a bandleader, a master of the Cuban ebony wood flute as an instrumentalist, Fajardo's precise intonation and articulation say it all. "Toma Chocolate" lets Armenteros, who played with Arsenio Rodriguez and Benny More, do the talking with his buttery tones. The impressive cast of drummers has at it on "Se Calientan los Cueros," and throughout the CD trombonist Juan Pablo Torres (Irakere, Estrellas de Areito) serves as musical director, contributing solos as well as leading polished ensemble work.

Los Originales is an important testament to an unsung generation of bandstand warriors who never failed to make music for people to dance to, but they always did so with extraordinary musical virtuosity.

Originally published in June 2002
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